“The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion.
There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate.
None of them is the truth”
I teach a class at the local college called “Digital Photography for Fine Art Majors.” It is a cleverly titled class which is, in fact, about digital photography for fine art majors. As with all endeavors of higher education, there is the standard breakdown of students, from the engaged and inquisitive to the quasi-complacent.
A couple of these students, while post-processing their images, struggle with feelings that they need to limit any toning as they don’t want their images to look “fake.” I can understand as, when I was young, I felt that way, too. Digital photography has given the photographer so much control that it can be hard, when starting out, to know when to say when. There is so much bad photography, and even worse processing, out there that those who are serious about the art and the craft become often become gun shy. They play it safe and stick to the facts, the reality, of the original scene.
The trouble with that reasoning is two-fold. The first is that we should not be photographing things as they are, we should be presenting things as they feel. As they feel to us. As we want them to feel to others. Our goal should not be to recreate “reality”, but rather to transcend it, providing our viewers with more meaning and emotion in our images than they would otherwise get if they were viewing the actual scene.
The second, as alluded by Avedon, is that photographs are, by their very nature, not reality (whatever that may mean to us). They are our creations and, as such, are subject to our biases, preferences and personalities. They are, in essence, as much about us as they are about the subject in front of the lens.
So, embrace the powers of burning and dodging. Fear not pure blacks nor the high contrasts and, most importantly of all, put more faith in your opinion than in any truth.